First, a side note
I have this love/hate relationship with nj.com's Keith Sargeant. He is doing a great job covering the facilities issues at Rutgers, including breaking the Master Plan last June. But he keeps doing stories that I'm thinking about for On the Banks. And he does this as a full time job, has a press pass, and access to the powers that be. And he just wrote a piece on facilities off of an "exclusive" interview with AD Pat Hobbs. It just isn't fair. But we will proceed here, giving our own totally biased, pro-Rutgers slant on the topic.
Where to begin
On November 29, Rutgers hired Patrick Hobbs as its new athletic director, replacing the oft-criticized and almost reclusive Julie Hermann. It was an unexpected choice, but one that has been generally accepted with nods of approval, if not outright joy and praise by fans, alumni, and the general public.
The former dean of Seton Hall Law School set his priorities as hiring a football coach and get into raising the money necessary to do the billion-and-one things Rutgers needs to do to be competitive and successful in the Big Ten. The first one was accomplished with the hiring of Chris Ash. The second....and third through billion and first....are yet to be done. But Hobbs did a good job of opening doors - or at least not bumping into one - with his opening/introductory press conference, his informal press conference at a basketball halftime, and his holiday video sent out to fans by email (below). That video alone made people think that there was someone leading athletics who had confidence in their own ability as well as a vision of where to go.
But beyond items one and two, where should Pat Hobbs be looking to change the Rutgers culture and focus? The recent (and continuing) woes of the men's basketball program may be changing the conversation some as questions continue popping up as to whether Eddie Jordan is the right person to lead the program. And that brings us to our discussion: after hiring a football coach and saying raising money is priority two, where specifically should Patrick Hobbs be looking as he sets his goals?
Damn that Keith Sargeant!
Hobbs sat down with Sarge in December and talked about what he felt were the immediate needs of the Athletic Department. He said he had a six-month plan of action, and spoke of it as a "an all-out sprint at the beginning of a marathon." Earlier, Steve Politi also set out what he felt were Hobbs' priorities, and we'll look at those thoughts as well.
In Sargeant's article, Hobbs stated that his six-month plan includes a few key areas:
1. The multi-phase plan that features a practice facility to accommodate the basketball, wrestling and volleyball programs and includes a redesign of the Hale Center to make it a football-only facility. Hobbs has already met with architects and is looking to get engineering work started soon. And his energy is pushing things quickly, saying "hopefully we'll be in the ground within a year."
2. Do something cosmetically at the RAC
I know he's talking inside, but maybe they could make sure the buiding doesn't slide apart while we're waiting.
3. Talking with coaches to find out what they feel is limiting their success. "Because," says Hobbs, "no one knows better what is an impediment to the success of their program than that coach. I already know one of the answers - probably the first answer - will be better facilities" Sensing a theme here?
4. Getting people on board. "The six-month plan is to get out to as many of our donors as we can to present a plan on the facilities,'' Hobbs said. "I hope that my enthusiasm on what we can achieve is infectious and that they can share in that. But this is that moment when we can decide to take Rutgers athletics collectively and decide to move forward."
"We're not where we need to be''
In what could be the understatement of the 250-year history of the University, Pat Hobbs offered that thought as his assessment of Rutgers' athletic facilities.
He said he'll ask fans for patience "because our coaches are going to deserve that, particularly as we try to upgrade facilities and do the other things that are necessary.''
And we, as fans will need to be patient. What was allowed to deteriorate and what was ignored for literally decades, will not be fixed, upgraded, rebuilt, or constructed over night. It will take years, but Hobbs seems to have a vision and a sense of how to go about it.
And tomorrow we'll look at more specific ideas that Pat Hobbs and Rutgers need to think about as the new AD puts his mark on the programs.